Photographer’s Q&A – Larry Wong
This week’s Q&A is with Larry Wong, staff photographer for the Edmonton Journal since 1988.
WHISTLER, B.C.: FEBRUARY 24, 2010 – Shelley-Ann Brown (L) and Helen Upperton of Canada celebrate after finishing second to capture a silver medal finish in the Women’s Two-Man Bobsleigh event on February 24, 2010 in Whistler, B.C. during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. (Photo by Larry Wong/Edmonton Journal/Canwest News Service)
What were your first steps in the industry?
In 1979, after a year of journalism school at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Calgary, I quit school to take a job as a photographer at the Calgary Albertan, a daily newspaper that became the Calgary Sun.
In 1982, I moved to Edmonton to become a staff photographer at the Edmonton Sun. I worked there under the tutelage of former United Press International photographer/editor Gary Bartlett until 1988 when I took a staff job at the Edmonton Journal.
When you were just starting out in the industry, what did you want to do, and are you where you thought you would be now?
I originally wanted to be a reporter because my writing skills were pretty good in journalism school and my photography skills were really bad. But I figured photojournalism, like rocket science, could be mastered. Of course I was wrong and today I regret not studying rocket science! But I get satisfaction from the fact that I am paid to do something I love to do. After 30 years, it is still the best job in the world!
Do you have a mentor?
I was a self-taught photographer and learned through the school of hard knocks. I made many mistakes along the way, but I never made the same mistake twice. I got my hands on every photojournalism book and magazine ever published and analyzed the images in these publications. I also learned something from every photographer I ever worked with or against.
EDMONTON, ALBERTA: APRIL 6, 2010 – A one and a half year old English Bulldog named “Buttercup” rides her skateboard near her home in southeast Edmonton April 6, 2010. Her human’s name is Paul King. (Photo by Larry Wong/Edmonton Journal/Postmedia News)
What or who are your biggest inspirations?
I am inspired by good images, whether it is photojournalism, sports, weddings, portraits, nature, scenics or any other type of image that has visual impact. And also by editors and managers who recognize photographic excellence and expect the best from their staff.
EDMONTON, ALBERTA: JANUARY 8, 2010 – University of Calgary Dinos forward Aaron Richards falls over University of Alberta Golden Bears forward Derek Ryan in front of Bears goalie Real Cyr during Canada West Hockey Conference game action at the University of Alberta January 8, 2010. (Photo by Larry Wong/Edmonton Journal/Postmedia News)
What was a pivotal point in your career?
I think the pivotal point in my career was in 1982 when joined the Edmonton Sun as a staff photographer. For the next five years, I also freelanced for United Press Canada and Reuters. I learned a lot from guys like Gary Bartlett, Bob Carroll, Nick Didlick and Gary Hershorn. Learning from the best wire service photographers and photo editors in the business changed the way I approached my work.
What are you working on now?
The last few years have been a challenging but satisfying time for me. I covered the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver for the Canwest News Service, now named Postmedia News. The opportunity to work beside the world’s best sports photographers has inspired me to improve on my own sports photography skills.
EDMONTON, ALBERTA: JULY 24, 2010 – Edmonton Storm’s Kora-Lea Hooker (left) is tackled by Lethbridge Steel’s Catherine Tams (right) during Western Canadian Female Football League Championship Final game action at Clarke Stadium in Edmonton July 24, 2010. The Edmonton Storm captured the championship by a score of 36-8. (Photo by Larry Wong/Edmonton Journal/Postmedia News)
How important to you is multimedia?
Multimedia for newspaper web sites is an important aspect in the metamorphosis of daily newspapers. I remember a few years back when multimedia was heralded by some as the saviour of daily newspapers. I don’t think this is the case. I believe newspaper readers want to see good images, whether it is delivered as video or still images.
I must admit that there are many photographers who can do it better than me and I admire them for that.
How do you ensure you are progressing as a photojournalist?
I approach every assignment with a “digital first” mindset, ensuring that whatever images I make get filed as soon as possible to get those images online to our newspaper web site. Today, newspapers have to compete with all other media including television, radio and other news sources. Immediacy is paramount in the digital news age.
EDMONTON, ALBERTA: NOVEMBER 28, 2010 – Montreal Alouettes’ slotback S.J. Green makes a one-handed catch that was ruled incomplete during second-quarter action of the 2010 Grey Cup final between the Montreal Alouettes and the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton November 28, 2010. (Photo by Larry Wong/Postmedia News)
What is your favourite way to unwind?
I used to unwind by practising martial arts until I started getting beat up and injured too many times. Today I spend most of my spare time at home with my wife, watching our 4-year-old daughter grow up.
What’s the best piece of advice anyone ever gave you about being a photographer?
You are only as good as the last photograph you made.
EDMONTON, ALBERTA: NOVEMBER 28, 2010 – Montreal Alouettes’ wide receiver Kerry Watkins (left) and cornerback Mark Estelle hoist the Grey Cup trophy while celebrating their team’s 2010 Grey Cup final victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton November 28, 2010. (Photo by Larry Wong/Edmonton Journal/Postmedia News)